Maximus, a 4th century bishop of Turin, saw preaching on charity as a medicine to cure sick souls. It could instil a commitment to inner renewal among the pagan country-folk in territory around his city. His sermons on Christ as the crucial sacrament taught awareness of the resurrection as enlivening for all areas of experience. He wanted superstitions connected with New Year’s festivities, a kind of Ouija board factor during the Kalends of January, to be overcome by Christ’s saving energies.
For more educated listeners, Maximus like to explain ways in which well-known stories from their pagan cultural past could be a first step towards a fuller appreciation of the gospels. He treats Homer’s story of Odysseus having himself bound to the mast of his ship as a symbol of Jesus Christ being tied to the Cross. Homer said that Odysseus sailed within reach of the Sirens singing, and the destructive temptation this brought with it, and was fully aware of the risk to his life. Now Scripture spoke about Jesus as “tempted in every way that we are,” yet he did not sin. His steadfastness overcame the temptations. The world was saved through the pitiful wood of the Cross, as people put it in the early Church. Like a rudder or a mast, it carries believers forwards to eternal rest, after Christ has been face to face with death.
We are able to have our hearts disentangled from the world’s snares because we trust the daring voyage of Christ.